It was a spectacular launch, as expected, for New Line Cinema's The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring in the domestic market, taking $73.1m in the five day period from Wednesday to Sunday. In the three day weekend (Fri to Sun), it took $45.25m - a record for a December opening beating the $38.1m taken a fortnight ago by Ocean's Eleven.

In contrast, Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone took $90.3m in its first weekend, exactly twice that of Lord Of The Rings. However, New Line never expected to reach Potter levels initially not only because it was playing on 3,000 less screens but also because of the film's PG-13 rating and its three-hour running time. The core audience was 13 and over, as opposed to Potter which appealed to wider family audiences and children under ten.

The opening - in addition to the $60.2m grossed overseas (see news story) - comes as a welcome relief for New Line which gambled $270m on the film and its two sequels which will open in Dec 2002 and Dec 2003 respectively. Playing at 3,359 sites, the film averaged a strong $13,471 per site.

The Fellowship Of The Ring was the biggest new hit of the week - by far - despite four other major openers. Paramount's CGI animated Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius based on a Nickelodeon TV show took $14.6m for third position; Universal's African American-skewed cannabis comedy How High with Method Man and Redman took $7.6m for the fifth spot, while Warner Bros and Castle Rock Entertainment suffered a big disappointment with its Jim Carrey comedy The Majestic directed by Frank Darabont (The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption). An homage to Frank Capra, The Majestic received poor reviews and took just $5m for the eighth slot.

Even worse was Fox's Joe Somebody, a starring vehicle for Tim Allen as a suburban everyman trying to prove his worth. With just $3.7m, the comedy was placed ninth.

Meanwhile Warner Bros held on to the second position with its heist caper Ocean's Eleven, taking $14.6m in its third weekend for a bright total to date of $95.2m. And Harry Potter took a further $6.2m to bring its 38-day total to $263.2m.

Christmas Day releases include the Meg Ryan/Hugh Jackman romantic comedy Kate & Leopold from Miramax Films and Michael Mann's epic Ali from Columbia Pictures.

Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimated weekend gross/Estimated total to date
1 (-) The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (New Line) New Line International $45.25m $73.1m
2 (2) Ocean's Eleven (Warner Bros) Warner Bros $14.6m $95.2m
3 (-) Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (Paramount) UIP $14m --
4 (1) Vanilla Sky (Paramount) UIP $12.1m $45.1m
5 (-) How High (Universal) UIP $7.6m --
6 (4) Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone (Warner Bros) Warner Bros $6.2m $263.2m
7 (3) Not Another Teen Movie (Columbia) Columbia TriStar $5.5m $21.7m
8 (-) The Majestic (Warner Bros) Warner Bros $5m --
9 (-) Joe Somebody (20th Century Fox) Fox International/Regency $3.7m --
10 (6) Monsters Inc (Buena Vista) $3.5m $224.2m